Friday, August 27, 2010

More SciFi! More Science! (... and too much Brin?)

Nothing better demonstrates the silliness of left-right "culture war" than the bitterly illogical fight over human-caused climate change HCC. People who stake fierce positions, over a scientific matter, based on their pre-existing political loyalties, should be ashamed of themselves. In fact, there are legitimate questions that a genuine HCC-sceptic can ask!  Questions that the scientific community ought to face and answer.  But how to tell a true "skeptic" from a kneejerk "denialist"? SKEPTIC Magazine commissioned an article from me, dissecting this serious matter, which may affect humanity's destiny. Climate Skeptics vs. Climate Deniers now posted online. Come take the “Skeptic Test!”

The fun fellows at "GeeksOn" interviewed me for more than an hour (if anyone can take that much Brin!) about everything from the future to politics to SETI to all the myriad ways that science fiction has either gone astray or else propelled our thoughts into new frontiers. Provocative notions about everything from privacy to “Avatar.”

PZO8028_180Before They Were Giants: First Works from Science Fiction Greats is a lovely collection of early stories by the likes of Greg Bear, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Larry Niven, William Gibson... and me. Way fun to glimpse the awkward first literary steps...

While in Rome, recently, we visited the Campo Di Fiorno plaza and paid respects to the statue of Giordano Bruno, who was burned on that spot for being - in effect - a sci fi author.  A required pilgrimage, if you are ever nearby.

=== from the Transparency Front ===

Iceland aims to become a legal safe haven for journalists. This, apparently began after attempts to prevent the dissemination of news about the financial difficulties of a bank in Iceland, which culminated in its bankruptcy.  And yes, of course, this correlates closely to what I predicted (in my novel EARTH (1989) would be THE core issue of the early 21st Century.  Accountability is the core ingredient of a successful modern , enlightened and free society.  It simply will not happen in a world of shadows.  Where this news stands out is simple: individual human beings have no current standing under international law.  They cannot sue or bring actions before world courts or institutions.  Nations have an absolute monopoly on “rights.”  Hence, the People are going to need a few nations who will stand up for them openly and radically.  (The US cannot be expected to do this.  It has other roles to play; it gets complicated.)  Go Iceland.

=== Looking Upward ===

The Seti Institute folks have a habit of taking ideas straight out of science fiction, dusting them off, claiming to have thought them up... then returning to the habit of bad-mouthing science fiction.  This is just another example.  

”Aliens may be thinking machines, alien AI….rather than our biological counterparts, says Seth Shostak; proposing that SETI should devote some of its search to areas where matter and energy would be plentiful, such as near hot, young stars or even near the centers of galaxies.”

Not that the idea is bad, in itself.  But, as the SETI Project completes its one scientific accomplishment... demonstrating the negative result of ZERO garish, friendly, blaring omnidirectional Tutorial Beacons... they are clearly looking for places to instead eavesdrop on advanced cultures.  A worthy goal that I wholly support.

But see where I deal with the notion of alien machines in many ways! In the story “Lungfish...” and in an article dissecting 13 reasons that aliens might lurk and visit our internet, without saying hello! 

=== More Science ===

The Age of Amateurs proven... as a fellow in Japan catches something smacking into Jupiter.

A new cosmology successfully (?) explains the accelerating expansion of the universe without dark energy; but only if the universe has no beginning and no end. 

A gallery of 30 laboratories where students can learn to implode buildings, analyze car crashes, take 3D images of molecules, clone animals, analyze bomb debris, design robots, rockets, or space habitats. Or go into the field to dive with jellyfish, study extremophiles in caves, track hurricanes or volcanoes, climb trees in the Amazon, or drill cores in Antarctica.

A graphical explanation of the movie Inception.

Ray Kurzweil claims we'll be able to reverse engineer the human brain within a decade. Others suggest that he does not understand the brain.

Ray responds.

Ah boys will be boys.

Truly amazing. The radioactive decay of some elements sitting quietly in laboratories on Earth seemed to be influenced by activities inside the sun, 93 million miles away.  Radioactivity rates are (it seems) affected by what might be neutrinos spun off by variations in nuclear reactions in the sun’s core. 

Futurama Writer Created And Proved A Brand New Math Theorem Just For an Episode.

Did the Copenhagen Suborbitals “Tycho” rocket go off?

A classic russian sci fi film. Well a lot of it seems to be a biopic about Tsiolkovsky (look him up!) You can follow a lot without understanding a word. 

Stanford University engineers have figured out that by coating a piece of semiconducting material with a thin layer of the metal cesium, it made the material able to use both light and heat to generate electricity, increasing cell efficiency.

=== From the Kurzweil collection ===

Called “photon enhanced thermionic emission,” or PETE, the process promises to surpass the efficiency of existing photovoltaic and thermal conversion technologies.

Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until  2003, according to Google CEO Eric Schmidt — about five exabytes of data. He cautioned that just because companies like his can do all sorts of things with this information, the more pressing question now is if they should. Schmidt noted that while technology is neutral, he doesn’t believe people are ready for what’s coming. “I spend most of my time assuming the world is not ready for the technology revolution that will be happening to them soon,” Schmidt said.

Harvard University researchers have uncovered a mechanism through which caloric restriction and exercise delay some of the debilitating effects of aging by rejuvenating the connections between nerves and the muscles that they control. -- Ah but it is always about mice and flies and such.  I have explained before why these effects are unlikely to apply to humans! In fact, Ray Kurzweil’s wishful thinking notwithstanding, we have probably already flicked all the switches that caloric restriction sets off, in mice and flies and such.

A stretchy new fabric made by linking together fibronectin – the proteins found in muscle tissue — could provide a scaffold for growing new organs. It could also be used as a coating for bandages to help wounds heal quickly and with less scarring.

Iris scanning technology may create what it calls “the most secure city in the world.” In a partnership with Leon — one of the largest cities in Mexico, with a population of more than a million — GRI will fill the city with eye-scanners. That will help law enforcement revolutionize the way we live — not to mention marketers.  I’m skeptical.

More items: unlinked.

Walking at one’s own pace for 40 minutes three times a week can enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits, combat declines in brain function associated with aging, and increase performance on cognitive tasks, researchers have found.

=== A return to manufacturing? ===

Americans are 4% of the world's population and half of its military spending, and DARPA alone has a research budget of $3.2 billion.  Now DARPA is pushing “rapid prototyping” to a whole new level. Its iFAB Program aims to develop a "foundry-style manufacturing capability." By which they mean microchip foundries - the generic, build-any-chip-for-any-designer factories that churn out microchips for every application you can imagine. This will lead to open source construction of the Army’s next-generation armored combat vehicle!

If this sounds at all familiar, it's because companies like Local Motors are already trying to make this happen for everyday vehicles - custom design and custom manufacturing all made possible through what used to be called rapid prototyping and is now just making stuff in a big hurry.
The difference is that DARPA doesn't want to end up with just a bunch of kit cars - or in this case, kit tanks. DARPA wants to literally reinvent manufacturing - not just so they can build new vehicles more easily, but because they have a not-so-secret ambition to revive America's manufacturing base.

Not everyone agrees that this is kind of manufacturing is a realistic goal - DARPA has a history of bringing on science fiction authors and futurists to help it brainstorm new ideas, and it's possible they were a little too high on a particular article from Wired when they wrote this document. But that's the point of DARPA - they fund things that no one else would, and eventually, that technology trickles down to the civilian sector.

And now the kicker... I am scripting a comic book (!) right now, about the notion of a rebirth of American manufacturing!  More about that soon.


How many definitions of science fiction are there?

"Attempting to define science fiction is an undertaking almost as difficult, though not so popular, as trying to define pornography... In both pornography and SF, the problem lies in knowing exactly where to draw the line." — Arthur C. Clarke,

throughstrangereyes"Many people have tried to define science fiction. I like to call it the literature of exploration and change. While other genres obsess upon so-called eternal verities, SF deals with the possibility that our children may have different problems. They may, indeed, be different than we have been." — David Brin, Through Stranger Eyes

(Buy a copy today! ;-)


BCRion said...

On half-lives being affected by solar activity, I'm pretty sure it's total bunk.

Their first paper on half-life variation with season looked at two datasets and saw some interesting trends. Unfortunately, a group out of Livermore tried to replicate the results and found no similar effect (measurements distributed randomly throughout the year). It is quite disturbing when another dataset does not show the trend claimed.

Furthermore, their hypothesis that it would be caused by solar activity is bizarre because the trends are the EXACT OPPOSITE of the effect they were claiming. They made the amateur mistake of essentially asserting that the sun is closer in the summer than the winter in the Northern hemisphere. This is demonstrably false.

(The most likely hypothesis is the variation in season was because of changes in temperature that accompany changes in season. The effects observed were a few tenths or a percent variation; probably enough to be caused by thermal expansion of equipment.)

Add to this, the institution of which many of the research team is apart of, the Purdue nuclear engineering program, was, and still largely is, in shambles because of various scandals over the last decade. Foremost were the "bubble fusion" folks over there that have all but been shown to have falsified data. The others were largely personal in nature. I have even seen some PhD theses from there that I would call utter embarrassments. One in particular has been shown to be outright wrong.

Now, this does not disprove their results, but when your institution has a recent history of shoddy and even falsified science, it calls into question the results anyone from there puts out.

Now, they may be correct and the Livermore data may be a fluke. This is indeed possible. However, when so many things from my personal experience line up to discredit them, I am incredibly skeptical. Before I'll believe anything, I need to see some independent verification.

David Brin said...

I agree. Astonishing claims demand major evidence.

David Brin said...

The hyperlink to Iceland as a typo—missing the leading “h”


Probably don’t want the “#start-of-comments” either.

François Marcadé said...

As usual I read you article about real skepticism with great interest, but I like too share 2 tangent comments.
- I do not know what is wrong with us engineer, but I am always appalled by the number of crank theories put forward by engineers who claim their training give Science credential. I guess that is because when you are an engineer you are taught quite advance science, but you are not really taught about research until you reach post-grad. In effect we are science-users rather than science makers, and, if I believe my own experience after a while we become just science-aware manager. Maybe this strikes me because I have among my relatives real researchers, or because my brush with research while working of my DEA and my Master, or just because I have not yet found my pet theory.
- When you are speaking of Petro-princes I hope you are thinking specifically about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, because the emirs of the U.A.E. (my employers for what it is worth) or Qatar are certainly not ‘Denialist’. For what I can judge they are serious about having a post-petrol economy, reducing their carbon and water footprint, going solar and nuclear, increasing the public transport options. But what I think convinced me the most is the off-hand remark of an Emirati official that was presenting on television the system developed to monitor the mangrove along the shorelines south of Abu-Dhabi. He said “When the sea-level will rise we will be able to plan remedial action in advance….”. He did not say “If”, he said “When”, because like most people around here he is a believer, not even a Skeptic.
PS: I already downloaded the geekson interview, I was going to listen to it today or tomorrow.

John Kurman said...

I do not wish to bore with details, so I will try to be concise. RE: thermionics.

A few years ago, an art glass casting friend of mine embarked upon an intelligent kiln project. When casting glass, it must be annealed. The thicker the glass, the longer the anneal time (goes up almost exponentially - have a look at how long it takes to cast telescope mirrors). Glass casting is unchanged from, oh, say 3500BCE, in that you have a plaster/silica mold that the glass softens into in the kiln or furnace. The process results in extremely conservative (wasteful) anneal times. She wants to save time and energy, thus the intelligent kiln. Hook up a PC to the kiln replacing the existing controller (basically a glorified rheostat), and have multiple pyrometers to check for differences in temp within the glass body. As long as the differences are within tolerance, you can cool down a lot faster. Upon consulting me (because I am the closest thing to an engineer she knows), I said, cool. But what you want is not an intelligent kiln, but an intelligent mold. What would be really nice is to have electric sensor components that can handle 2000F temps. If they are chip size, just blend them into the plaster/silica slurry when you pour the mold. They talk to the kiln. Yeah, that would be nice. Now with thermionics the possibility exists that it could be done. Not only could it be done, but heat could be used to compute things. Or at least this is far as my, admittedly, non-tech vision takes it.

David Brin said...

Francois thanks for your remarks. (Quelle sagesse!;-) I am well aware that there is great variety among even Sunni conservative Arab royal families.

For example, the great Hashemites - of whom only the Jordanian family remains - wanted development and modernization and liberalization... one of the reasons that ibn Saud was able to foment the Wahhabis to help him bring them down. Prince Faisel - (played by Alec Guiness in Lawrence of Arabia) wanted to invite the Jews of Europe to "come home" as fellow sons of Abraham. they would get land and a principality of their own, in exchange for setting up universities all over the Middle East.

Ah, what might have been.

Sure, the Emirs may be more friendly and future oriented than the Saudis. I doubt they dream of the return of the Caliphate... largely because the Saudis see themselves as the Caliphs. STill, I wager they consider the West to be a dangerous corruption that they do not want to see polluting (especially) their women.

Thanks John K, for telling us all about your... Kiln Person!

Rob Perkins said...

To be fair, I live in Western Civilization as one of its members, and like those Arabs, I don't want its corruption influencing my daughters.

Problem is, I'm positive that the set of things I call "corruption" is not the set of things they call "corruption", and the intersection of the two sets is likely small. Very small.

David Brin said...

Rob, if you separate out the areas in which Arab and other macho cultures EXAGGERATE the same values you share, then the overlap may be greater than you think.

Read Shakespeare. We were once as virginity-obsessed as they are now. To this day, we teach our daughters to be circumspect, careful, choosy and to keep their overall number of partners small.

We've settled on an equilibrium that also allows them to be sovereign, karate-knowing adults. Thus we get more interesting wives and a higher fraction of our population can be mobilized as creative participants. But that doesn't mean a total absence of shared concerns.

No, the difference is that they consider our differences over moral superficialities to be matters of fundamental good and evil. While you and I can shrug off diversity, they cannot. Macho cultures WORRY! Just look at Alaska and its favorite daughter.

And their worry is our problem.

Marino said...

OT, from the past thread... Dr. Brin, were you in Rome this August? I suppose it was something private, not a book tour or a conference, as I missed any notice about it, or maybe I was too much occupied with family issues. Pity, I'd been happy to meet you (and, pity for you, you got one of our hottest August. Hot AND damp...) btw, Campo de' Fiori is not a good place to visit after dark, when drunken natives and tourists raise hell...)

David Brin said...

Marino, hi and sorry I did not announce it. Just a brief spell of tourism with the family. Actually, our week there was hot and humid... but not as bad as I recall some other august visits to Rome! Well, all that beauty has a price!

See you there next time!

Duncan Cairncross said...

If I could take us back to the previous comments

There was a comment

"We can make a principled distinction between vampires and corporations:

Vampires are:

* Fictional
* Amoral
* Immortal
* Stronger than any single human
* Smarter (perhaps due to long experience) than any single human
* Fed by consuming the life energy of humans
* Good servants, terrifying masters.

Corporations are:

* Not Fictional."

This I think shows a misapprehension, Corporations are like trucks or airplanes, they can be badly designed for the society they operate in
(Brakes do not contribute to the bottom line)
or they can be driven by bad or evil drivers

They are not of themselves evil and vampire like

We should be concentrating on the design of the rules they operate under
Driving Licenses for CEO's????

François Marcadé said...

If I may add, the vast majority of the Emirati (Emir is the Title for the 7 rulers) is Sunni wahhabit, a small minority is either shia or hindu they are the descendant of merchant family established before the independence and respectively ethnically Persan or Indian. But it is a matter of theology, the rejection of all forms of idolatry even those that had crept in other tradition of Islam. They are not fanatically puritan like the Saudi.
The Emirati that I frequent are among the Best and the Brightest either Engineer or Law Enforcement officers sometime both, I would not say they consider the western world as a corruption, many including the women have finished their education in the western world and Europe especially the UK is where they often spend their summer family holyday. They see themselves as the vanguard of an Arab renaissance that will restore the positive value of the mythic caliphate (although they never use the word and they rarely pinpoint the beginning of the Arab Dark ages) that have been preserved thanks to the western world. They hope for a world where the Arabs will be again at the forefront of the civilization through Technology and Science. Their model is certainly the Japan which was at the same time able to preserve its own culture and to compete with the western world on its own terms.
It is true that they have this Macho culture, but it is also true that they have been able to bring forward quite a lot of women in position of authority. Recently the debate has been raised about the fact that Emirati men can marry foreigners but not Emirati women, it is a question of time before this barrier falls.
If I sound too much like a supporter of the Emirates, please accept my apology, it is difficult to live almost 10 years in a country without liking its inhabitant and wishing for their success.

François Marcadé said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Fisk said...

Would Glenn Beck consider curiosity a 'traditional American value'?

Tim H. said...

Dunno', but didn't Mr. Beck look at home in that Red Army uniform on his book jacket?

David Brin said...

Thank you Francois. I sincerely hope that you are right.

BCRion said...

Let us hope the moderates win out in the end. Sadly, history shows it is far easier to be against something than it is to be for it. It is for that reason the vocal minority can influence the world more than the silent majority. Believe me, I want moderates to be in charge in the Arab world, and everywhere else for that matter. This is the pragmatic reason the whole Mosque controversy is utterly misguided.

It is the aforementioned fact that I see the Coffee Party doomed to being a minor force in American politics, at least in the short term. Perhaps their virtues may prevail in the long run, but for now we have a movement that is 90% about party and 10% about good government.

Words cannot begin to describe my animosity for Glenn Beck. He personifies the hyper-partisan poison in US politics.


More evidence of wasted money in Iraq:

Just sad. Unfortunately, I don't see the Tea Party being up in arms over this wasteful spending. They would have been had Kerry won in 2004.


If only, it wasn't true...,464/

Note the date.

sociotard said...

That graphic of inception doesn't address the ambiguity of the ending; we don't really know if Cobb is awake in the end.

Marino said...

you wrote:
Their (Emirates) model is certainly the Japan which was at the same time able to preserve its own culture and to compete with the western world on its own terms.

sorry for the snappy remark, but after reading that line, why are "Pearl Harbor", "Nanking " and "Greater Co-prosperity Sphere" and "Unit 731" coming to my mind? Followed by a date early in this month, August 6th... Japan is imho the worst possible model ever for any country wishing to compete with the West.

David Brin said...

As for the incredible gall of Glenn Beck arrogating the mantle of “Heir of Martin Luther King?” I have one response that may seem unfair, regionalist, even a bit snippy. On the other hand it says it all.

Find a map showing states opposed to King and the Civil Rights Act. Compare it to a map of where Glenn Beck is most popular today. Geez. Some things ain’t complicated.

"More evidence of wasted money in Iraq"

. Of course the pathetic thing is the failure of anybody on the right to call for a Special Prosecutor, re all this. We’re talking about HUNDREDS of billions. But the same people who screeched over never-proved assertion that a few tens of millions (yes, that is an “M”) might have been pilfered from the UN’s Oil-for-Food program now call misdeeds under Bushite direction - three or four orders of magnitude worse

Stefan Jones said...

The president is going to give an Oval Office address about the sorta-end of the Iraq War.

I find myself hoping he uses it to talk about the right and wrong reasons to go to war, and promise a thorough investigation into the roots of the Iraq mess. Starting with the early-2001 energy task force.

But I doubt it. President Vulcan appears to have lost his spine in a transporter accident.

Tony Fisk said...

Combining the end of days with curiosity:

Here's an interesting video showing how the number of detected asteroids has changed over the last 30 years (it's getting crowded!)

"There are more things in heaven and Earth than thou didst dream, GlennBeckio"

From the sound of it, Obama is going the same way as Rudd: the mess is proving too much to cope with. (and always the incessant 'This is your mess now. Deal!' Is that 'now' getting more and more muted?)

Still on endings, here's an extract from the close of T. Pratchett's "The Last Hero":
"It is in the nature of things that those who save the world from certain destruction often don't get hugely rewarded because, since the certain destruction does not take place, people are uncertain how certain it may have been and are, therefore, somewhat tight when it comes to handing out anything more substantial than praise."

Sounds about right.

BCRion said...

More on Beck and his claiming the mantle of civil rights (and just about everything else he says). Keep in mind this man wrote a book entitled "The Overton Window". He knows very well what he is doing when he makes what most historians consider ridiculous claims. By making such claims, it adjusts the political conversation such that "more reasonable" assertions once considered absurd can now be treated as mainstream.

As of now, Beck is taking the role of populist claiming that both parties are corrupt and we need to vote incumbents out of office. Never mind that this benefits Republicans. I would be willing to bet real money that once the Republicans gain power, his populist rhetoric dies down and he becomes just another conservative apologist.

rewinn said...

@Duncan Cairncross - I appreciate your further analysis (although it is regretfully lacking in humor.)

However (dropping the moral implications of "evil" for a second) let me assert that there is BFD difference between most technologies and the corporate form : Corporate entities are life, but not as we know it.

Certainly there are dangerous CEOs who are responsible for dreadful corporate actions (Rupert Murdoch or the Koch brothers using their billions to subvert democracy are great examples) just as there are responsible business leaders who have done the opposite (love Windows or hate it, Bill Gates' charitable work is amazing ... and not merely for its dollars, but more so for its results-orientation.) But even if we replaced every CEO with Mother Theresa, so long as their corporations have competitors, at least one competitor will cut corners, outperform, and start taking its lunch. This will compel CEO Therea to follow suit or violate a duty to shareholders to maximize shareholder value.

We saw this in the mortgage meltdown, as recounted in the classic This American Life's THE GIANT POOL OF MONEY. Mortgage brokers who lent prudently lost market share to those who cut corners, and were therefore compelled to do the same. This created a viciously downward spiral leading many previously virtuous, prudent lenders astray.

I don't contest the historical fact that regulated capitalism can be extremely effective at improving life for just about everyone; I do think that American corporate law needs to be re-written to require considerations other than short-term shareholder value to be controlling. Otherwise, the motivation of the organization will override the good intentions of any individuals.

rewinn said...

On the plus side, Beck-a-po-loosa drew about 87,000 people according to counts from on aerial pictures.

In contrast, average attendance at a Seattle Seahawks game was about 67,000.

Glenn Beck beat the Seahawks!

But then ... who hasn't?

Anonymous said... goes to a blank white page.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Rewinn,

I sort of agree,
A truck is a device that has its intended purpose to shift goods from A to B

A corporation is a device that has its intended purpose to make money for shareholders

The truck has a host of features like lights and brakes that do not contribute to its intended purpose but that we (society) have mandated

Even with the safety features we (society) require the truck driver to be trained in safe use of his vehicle.

This is what is needed,
we need to set limits on the weight (size) of a corporation so that it does not damage our roads, we need to set limits on speeds and minimum requirements on brakes and lighting.

In addition we need to set standards for the driver (CEO) along with penalties for doing things that put other peoples money and lives at risk

We do not require CEO's to be "good people" any more than we require all drivers to be good people - we just need to set the rules up accordingly and let Mr Smith's invisible hand do the rest

Now for the difficult part
Suggestions for rules??

Rob Perkins said...

Is there any effective difference between the "TEA Party" today and the "Reform Party" of the early 90's?

If there is not, then the end effect of a populist uprising will not be to the Republicans' gain.

BCRion said...


I think there is a fundamental difference between the Reform and Tea Party movements. The former was an actual political party with a legitimate presidential candidate and an agenda of its own.

The Tea Party is really just an avenue (front?) by which people are expressing their dissatisfaction with Democrats. Certainly, there are undercurrents the Republicans need be wary of, but thus far, their agenda and their supporters have almost all been those traditionally affiliated with Republican causes.

Now, the Republicans will do much to claim they are not one in the same. To those, however, I request the two following questions be answered:

* Why are there so few non-Republicans being supported by the Tea Party for Congressional office?
* Why did this Tea Party phenomenon not appear while the Republicans were in power and only after the Democrats were in charge? In other words, where is the outrage for the documented excesses of the Republicans?

Until they can really differentiate themselves, the adage goes, "if it quacks like a duck..."

Alan Cooper said...

I have a few quibbles with your Skeptics vs Deniers piece:

1. When arguing for 99% expert agreement you start by putting what is surely your weakest foot forward. The silent dog argument is, to me, pretty convincing, but what James McCarthy says about how many people agree with him is unlikely to be convincing evidence for someone who suspects that McCarthy is deluded.

2. In the 'Precautionary Principle' section I think you make a not-quite-fair substitution of CCC for AGW. For many skeptics and deniers this is the main point at issue. They do not deny AGW, but just either deny or need more proof that the consequences will be catastrophic. Since this involves both social as well as extended climatological projection it is much less likely for one of the silent dogs to bark about it (except when funded by the "enemy").

3. A point you have not addressed is the distinction among believers in CCC, between skeptics and deniers as to whether any of the currently proposed remedies is more likely to be effective or just harmful as a result of providing a distraction from whatever other strategies might actually save us.

With regard to this last point, what do you think of the work of David MacKay? and do you really think that we can avert CCC without making population control a much higher priority than it appears to be right now?

François Marcadé said...

@ Mariano
I must have expressed myself incorrectly; I did not mean that the Emirati are inspired by the history of Modern Japan, especially the colonial past. They are inspired by the end result; a culture that is at the same time recognized for its modernity and that is nevertheless faithful to its origin and is treated as an equal by the western nations. They would like the Bedouin to be a as recognizable an icon as the Samurai, they want Ibn Battuta to be as known as Myamoto Musashi.
@David Brin
I finished listening to the Geekson podcast yesterday, I like the way you express your thought, going sideways and then back on topic and how you avoid making a statement before building your case. He liked the way how they let you do that. I think I idenfied this other Author that you don’t name and although read some of his novels, I do not associate the two of you in anyway. I discovered your book (starting with "Star Tide Rising") about the same time I was finishing reading most of Larry Niven and I thought of him first but his stories do not fit too well your description.

Unknown said...


The writers of The Onion are prophets. My favorite is "AOL Acquires Time-Warner In Largest-Ever Expenditure Of Pretend Internet Money", dated before the dot-com crash.,3677/

@David Brin

Find a map showing states opposed to King and the Civil Rights Act. Compare it to a map of where Glenn Beck is most popular today.

I'm a native Alabamian, and it took me a while to figure this out.

I pieced it together during Obama's campaign, when I wondered how people could go straight from calling Obama Muslim to complaining about his "racist" United Church of Christ pastor.

I think it's because the Obama-is-a-Muslim meme allows people to talk about how he's from a frightening and poorly understood culture that might harbor ill will against "us" (meaning WASPs) - all without mentioning race. When people learned about his pastor, they were happy to talk more directly about their racial fears. When the pastor story died down, they went back to their story about Obama being Muslim.

It's an incredible feat of doublethink. I actually don't think these people realize they're racist.

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

If I could take us back to the previous comments

There was a comment

"We can make a principled distinction between vampires and corporations:


This I think shows a misapprehension, Corporations are like trucks or airplanes, they can be badly designed for the society they operate in
(Brakes do not contribute to the bottom line)
or they can be driven by bad or evil drivers

They are not of themselves evil and vampire like

I was the one who started that vampire thing, and I think my original post was slightly misunderstood. I mentioned a story in which a gentleman's wife turned out to be a vampire, and the horror at the realization that she did sincerely "love" him, but that it was the same way he "loved" a good steak dinner.

I did not mean that a corporation itself is like a vampire (although there are possibilities with that analogy as well). I meant the the politicians who are in bed with the corporations for campaign money and bribes may sincerely "love" America, but that "love" is for our country's police and courts to side with the interests of transnational corporations against those of its own citizens. And that it is very shortsighted and disfunctional of voters to support politicians who "love" American in that sense on the mistaken grounds that "loving America" makes them patriotic.

"Loving America" as a beacon of freedom and democracy is not the same thing as "loving" a country because that country allows you to consume it.

JuhnDonn said...

John Kurman said... smart kiln/smart mold...

Funny. I'd just started trying to slump a coke bottle in my raku kiln yesterday. Barely got hot enough to darken the panted label when propane ran out. D'oh!

If anyone's interested in this sorta' thing, you can build a propane burner and ceramic fiber kiln for under $300 that can reach 2000° F / Cone 0. This is hot enough for low fire ceramics, melting bronze and aluminum, and getting iron/steel hot enough for hammer welding (can make cool pattern welded steel knife blades).

I'll dig out my old project pages with instructions on burner, kiln, and forge making and post them tonight or tomorrow. Regular folks having inexpensive access to medium high temps is cool!

Ilithi Dragon said...


Most of them probably know that they are racist, but are in various levels of denial about it. Hurray for mental compartmentalization...

College already has classes that are partly designed to teach people how to recognize their own mental compartmentalizations (Sociology 101 being a prime example), but I think this is something that should be taught in primary school, how people can simultaneously hold two separate beliefs, and how to guard against it in yourself.

LarryHart said...


I pieced it together during Obama's campaign, when I wondered how people could go straight from calling Obama Muslim to complaining about his "racist" United Church of Christ pastor.

I think it's because the Obama-is-a-Muslim meme allows people to talk about how he's from a frightening and poorly understood culture that might harbor ill will against "us" (meaning WASPs) - all without mentioning race. When people learned about his pastor, they were happy to talk more directly about their racial fears. When the pastor story died down, they went back to their story about Obama being Muslim.

It's an incredible feat of doublethink. I actually don't think these people realize they're racist.

Very good example!

I post quite a bit on a different site devoted to comic book author Dave Sim. Although Canadian, Sim is a vocifierous supporter of American conservative politics, and so the site often gets to discussing such issues from both sides of the political aisle.

There are two strongly-conservative posters on that site with whom I argued a lot during the 2008 elections. One guy from Texas likes to throw out all sorts of quick put-downs without really backing them up, and he was going on about the likelihood that Obama was a secret Muslim. The other conservative guy--the one I've been referring to as my "honest conservative" friend--took great offense at me mentioning that conservatives were trashing Obama for that very reason. He insisted I was making that up, because conservatives were complaining about the Christian Reverend Wright, and it "made no sense" that the same conservatives would consider it possible that someone who spent 20 years in Reverend Wright's church would be anything other than a Christian. I finally had to point out that his fellow conservative on the very same site was indeed making that very argument, and that if conservative talking points "didn't make sense", well, that wasn't my fault.

rewinn said...

@LarryHart - your discussion of the two conservatives, and the general discussion of the ChristianMuslim Obama, may be two examples of the primacy of emotion in the reasoning style of today's "conservative" movement.
(I put "conservative" in quotes because it's quite possible that the conservatives of another era thought otherwise ... that's another subject.)

They know they don't like Obama, even though Obama's record on the issues is roughly comparable to Richard Nixon's (indeed Nixon imposed wage-and-price controls, making him just about the closest thing to a Communist to see the Oval Office.) So they throw any label they want on him however irrational or contradictory that label may be ... and when you point out that they are being irrational or contradictory, you are asking them to acknowledge the irrationality of their feelings ... which is a pretty tough thing for people to do. Few people have the ability to admit when they are being irrational.

Perhaps the best you can do is to point out the contradiction so that the third party in any internet conversation ... that is to say, other readers of the conversation ... may make their own judgment.

The other day Jimmy Carter went to North Korea and got an American freed. Any patriot would praise him to the skies for that. But people who hate Jimmy just can't do it. Some just can't get past the fact that he didn't blow the cr@p out of Iran and get our hostages killed when he had the chance; others just can't get past the fact that he tried to wean us from our dependence on foreign oil before we got involved in another land war in Asia.

rewinn said...

About vampires - while yes indeed "vampires" is just a metaphor and therefore flawed, the *important* point is that corporations are life forms as mutable, adaptable and unsentimental as a virus ... the big difference being that humans have natural defenses against viruses.

It goes without saying (yet I will say it against) that corporations are highly useful life forms. Surely the SF audience can imagine highly useful artificial life forms that become something less than benign?

Turn it around: in what way are corporations *not* life forms? And how can we use that to protect human life?

Jacob said...

I'd like to discuss my own views on Racism as I may very well be one of those who uses Double Think or Mental Compartmentalization. (White Male raised in Georgia here) I consider the subject to have two flavors superiority and fear. In my mind true Racism applies to superiority, the belief that any race is better or more deserving than another. This is obviously the worse of the two and something that has thankfully been dying off as an American culture trait.

Fear is the other way that Racism is commonly used, but I have my doubts if it is appropriate. I am wary (fear motive) of some of the cultures of African Americans. I think that poor economics and traditional stable home environments make them have a higher likelihood of being dangerous. I apply the same for "Poor White Trash." I discriminate against people of these cultures (based on appearance, hygiene, etc) until I have opportunity to learn more about the individual.

Because of this, some might consider me a racist. I don't agree because in my mind I'm just being cautious until personal experience with the individual proves that stereo types rarely apply. (Something I believe strongly in.) But I still avoid dark alleys because they may be dangerous. I associate danger with certain groups and hot stoves.

Examples of personal exception would be a long time close African American friend, taking a Trailer Park Girl to the Prom, and Voting for Obama. To be fair, Obama has almost no cultural connection to groups I'm cautious about. Palin better fits the stereo types I worry about.

Part of the reason I bring this up is that I do not find it surprising that people in the south would half a high degree of fear based motivation. I think that it like other negative emotions like anger and jealousy should be identified and resisted as part of our irrational selves.

BCRion said...


I think you bring up the difference between prejudice and racism. Prejudice is a natural, ingrained survival mechanism. When you encounter something that is different than what you are accustomed to, you feel uneasy. Unfamiliarity could mean danger, which could result in death.

For example, if you are in a poor side of town (something that is known to have a statistically higher crime rate) and see a group of muscular, unkempt men (again, associated with a criminal stereotype), you would tend to not approach them. These men may be the finest people you have ever met, but then again, they may not. You have no way of knowing other than associations formed by life and cultural experiences.

I hesitate to call this any kind of -ism because this is something ingrained in our deepest survival mechanisms. Now, the extreme form of racism has a belief in superiority of particular races over others. However, where does irrational racial preference fit into this? It is a tricky line to draw because I think there are plenty of case by case issues here.

Where I tend to draw that line is when a person has had ample time and opportunity to evaluate an individual to reach a rational judgment about that person's moral character. If after that time, an individual still has feelings against that person for no rational reason, then that person probably has some -ism attitude. They may not even be consciously aware as it is a difficult thing for many to admit a person has such biases.

Regarding Obama, all US citizens have had suitable time and the means to collect information and make decisions about him. Yet, there are a large percentage people who maintain irrational and contradictory views about him. However, this is complicated and mitigated a bit because many people have formed prejudged notions and only had them reinforced by certain media outlets (all too easy to compartmentalize these days).

In effect, I don't consider a vast majority of the people who dislike Obama irrationally necessarily racist. The blame is more on this echo chamber where irrational ideas get repeated until they become truth fueled by an all too difficult tendency to admit we are wrong. That does not make them right; they are still wrong and we should not hesitate pointing it out when appropriate. However, I would hesitate to call them evil.

Now those who have exploited this for gain, on the other hand...

David Brin said...

Francois, thank you very much for your kind words.

"They are inspired by the end result; a culture that is at the same time recognized for its modernity and that is nevertheless faithful to its origin and is treated as an equal by the western nations. They would like the Bedouin to be a as recognizable an icon as the Samurai, they want Ibn Battuta to be as known as Myamoto Musashi."

Francois I would love for this to be so. But please note that this implies acceptance of the MACRO Enlightenment worldview. Universal rights, individual choice and autonomy, universal accountability. Equality under the law. These are not-negotiable...

...and while there may be regional variations in custom and even dress codes, what will not be allowed is the suppression of women in ways that prevents them from (1) emigrating to live free of cultural restraints eleshwere. (2) getting educated to whatever extent they choose, with open access to choice-relevant information, (3) sovereignty over all adult life choices including marriage.

Note that I allow for local variations of custom and even (to some degree) law. Nevertheless, if these are the fundamentals of the future, then in a sense the West has "won."

That is where the Saudis do NOT accept the inevitable. They consider themselves to be at-war with us, at this macro level. If these fundamentals rule the world, the Wahhabis will have lost. If the Emirs are okay with such a world, though, then I am okay with Bedouin chic and places in the world where my daughter is expected not to show her legs.

Yeah jimmycarter gets no credit. One decision screwed him... typically because he was trying to be 'the adult' (obama's problem too). Trying to maximize contrast viz iranian immaturity, he simply ordered all Iranian diplomats to go home... surprising many in Iran, who expected him to make a TRADE!

THAT is what he should have done. His contrast could have been achieved simply by 'seizing and interning" the iranian diplomats... at a cushy florida beach resort! sigh, alas.

Jacob said...

Hi BCRion,

Excellent post. You are the type of person that I'd like to encounter more: reasoned, rational, and I think introspective. Unfortunately in politics, the single largest reason for swing and moderate voters to choose a candidate is how they feel about the person or their opponent. Rather than being based on taking the time to do an evaluation, a decision will be made based on prejudice. In those brief encounters either over a water cooler or during a TV snippet, who managed to active "Like" and "Dislike" circuits in our head.

Most people really do respond based on what Media they consume. They voice their feelings in the language of talking points. Whatever those may be at the time; birth certificate, preacher, or faith.

Tim H. said...

One problem with BHO is that so many were hoping for Roosevelt 3.0. I'm far to fond of this country to hope for the dire circumstances that would allow BHO to emulate FDR.

David Brin said...

Indeed! Only one president... Teddy Roosevelt... managed to be "great" despite the handicap of good times. All the other greats had dire situations to live up to, endure, and to gain much credit out of the endeavors of others.

Oh, I admire Washington and Lincoln. But to triumph so resoundingly, in the face of lack of adversity... TR was one impressive fellow.

BCRion said...

Hi Jacob,

Thank you very much. I think we are in agreement here about the way things really are versus the way things should be.

Here, I do think our leaders have largely failed us. I don't blame my conservative uncle who drives a truck, works on the farm, and does several odd jobs to pay his medical bills for not having the time to evaluate all of the facts and, as such, believing in things that are outright absurd lies. Sadly, because of years of hearing right-wing talking points, he will not believe anything a democrat says. Further, there are many just like him and only if those ideologically aligned with them are willing to stand up for the truth can minds like theirs be changed.

All leaders *should* act like one and stand up to things that are obviously untrue regardless of party or political gain. They are the ones with the education, access to resources, and the responsibility to country to do so. Rather, it seems to me our "conservative leaders" have, in my mind, done little to live up to either descriptor. For every word used to discuss how Obama might be an Islamo-socialist bent upon destroying the American way of life just cost us a thousand words of well reasoned, healthy political debate.

BCRion said...

Just to add something why I consider the current administration to be run by grown-ups trying their very best to make America succeed. The issue of nuclear security is one I am fairly familiar with, and the policies of the Obama administration are the most mature in nearly two decades.

Bill Clinton brought us the reign of the anti-nuclear ideologue Hazel O'Leary. While long before my time, I am aware of the deleterious impact her policies had on the nuclear security establishment; the post-Cold War drawdown was anything but responsible.

Fast-forward to George W. Bush. We saw lots of cheerleading and blustery rhetoric, but what really happened? Our facilities and personnel capabilities in that area were allowed to decay to near critical levels. If anything, things are far worse now at the weapons labs than they were when Clinton left office.

Come Obama, someone most would, on face, expect to be much a repeat of Clinton. Rather, he recognized that responsible drawdown in a dangerous and rapidly changing world can only be achieved in the presence of robust capability and has asked for some of the largest funding increases since the start of the Cold War to help restore it.

I want to avoid a long and protracted discussion on this complicated issue and just make the point. The folks in the Obama administration are able to evaluate information and take steps that, on surface, seem counter-intuitive to reach a greater goal. This stance tells me something about the pragmatism and maturity of the people currently in power.


Anecdote that should make us happy about the Obama administration regardless of what you think about various policies. When Joe Biden met with the directors of the US national labs, he was very adamant in letting them know about the importance of science to the country. Usually, that dialogue is the other way around. Hearing of such strong support for science at such a high level is very encouraging indeed.

David Brin said...

Which is why I tried hard to reach out to the "ostrich" conservatives by offering point after point based on conservative basic values and interests.

A critical mass of respectable conservatives who finally realized how thoroughly their movement has been suborned and betrayed... and you might see, simultaneously the end-of-its-misery of the corrupted GOP and the rebirth of conservatism in new form.

As a movement of honesty, probity, calm reason, intellect, skepticism, values, gentility, and civil willingness to negotiate. One needn't ask them to surrender a single bona fide conservative value that Barry Goldwater would have recognized, in order to resume their rightful place as loyal and helpful counter-balances to liberal manic over-eagerness...

...while at the same time showing willingness to work with and find common ground with genuine, grownup liberal passion for problem solving and progress.

Alas, it seems that critical mass won't happen. The ostriches wake up in isolated ones and twos. The rest have joined a sullen populism whose principal rallying cry is: "I know our side has been horrific and awful and almost universally wrong... but our opponents are worse! They HAVE to be! And we'll concoct stories till they seem so terrible we MUST stay loyal to our own, corrupt leaders!"

What an awful rationalization for loyalty. No wonder there are no republican scientists, anymore. Ah, but even that can be rationalized as a GOOD thing!

Sigh and alack. KEEP TRYING with your ostrich relative and friends. I admit it seldom works. But I can't think of anything else to try...

...till BHO finally grows a spine and appoints a special prosecutor.

David Brin said...

BCRIon that is very cheering.

François Marcadé said...

To continue our discussion
“.and while there may be regional variations in custom and even dress codes, what will not be allowed is the suppression of women in ways that prevents them from (1) emigrating to live free of cultural restraints elsewhere. (2) Getting educated to whatever extent they choose, with open access to choice-relevant information, (3) sovereignty over all adult life choices including marriage.”
(2) is not only permitted but actively encouraged, as is holding a job or founding a business. (1) and (3) are not prohibited by law like in Saudi, but it is only an option for the upper class girls. A daughter of Shaikh Mohammed (Shaikha Latifa I believe) is pursuing an Graphic Artist career in Paris, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
“I am okay with Bedouin chic and places in the world where my daughter is expected not to show her legs.”
The Emirates are not one of such places shorts are permitted for all sex, although bikinis are restricted to the beaches. On the other hand showing to much flesh is a stupid thing tourists do, most residents know that from March to November the sun can be deadly.
I could tell you about the Emirati courtship (an interesting way of circumventing the tradition through modernity), but best would be if you could come and see by yourself. I am sure Isobel Abulhoul would love bagging an author of your stature for her Festival of Literature, you might want to suggest to your getting an invitation from the “Emirates Airline Festival of Literature”. It takes place at a Conference center that is just a stone throw away from where I live. If you were inclined to, we could discuss further at the Belgian Bar, the beer would be on me.

Ilithi Dragon said...

So I've been scaring myself by reading news reports on Glenn Beck's religious revival/return-to-God-themed populist push he's been making, with the so-called "Restoring Honor" rally the other day, meetings with Christian Right leaders, talking more about his own religion/'finding god', etc., his massive popularity, and the recent surge in GOP support over the Dems in the polls. It makes me want to find a nice, deep cave to lair in and fortify.

I've long been optimistic about the Dems' chances in the upcoming election, but that optimism has been waning. The GOP has a LOT of momentum going, with their own party platform and the new Angry Tea Party base, and I just don't see the Dems keeping up.

The problem I'm seeing is two fold. First, the GOP managed to stonewall the Obama adminstration and the Dems in Congress enough to keep them from enacting policies that are desperately needed to turn things around, but not enough to prevent the Dems from enacting anything significant. I think this is going to be worse overall for the Dems than if they had been completely stonewalled, because then pointing at the GOP and saying "We tried but they wouldn't let us do anything!" would have been easy. As it stands, the Dems were able to do just enough to stave off total disaster, but not enough to clean up the mess, and the dam they shored up is starting to leak again. This makes claims that the GOP didn't let the Dems get the job done very hard to stick. It also gives the GOP a very strong platform from which to cry, "Look, see! They had their turn and nothing they did pulled us out of the gutter! Any claim they make to have averted catastrophe is hogwash! If we had been in charge, the economy would be booming, and by resisting them like we did, we managed to hold back their crazy socialism from turning this mess into a complete disaster!"

To be frank, I don't think the GOP could be in any better position to retake seats this election, at least as things stand now, and maybe it's just paranoia brought on by the self-scaring I mentioned above, but I can't help but suspect that it was orchestrated.

The second problem for the Dems is a chronic problem for them, and a GOP strong point. The GOP noise machines have stirred up a LOT of anger and anti-government, anti-establishment, anti-incumbant feelings (etc. etc. etc.). There is a LOT of energy, a LOT of anger, a LOT of fear, brought on by the rekindling of old prejudices and paranoias. This has given the GOP a lot of momentum, and the Dems have nothing that can compete. They're a fractious bunch, given to brief spurts of rabid energy that can mobilize to action with a lot of energy very quickly, but then quickly disperse back to their every-day lives, or other interests or causes. In a lot of ways this is good, because in times of great need they'll throw up a massive force, accomplish something incredible, and then the crowd will largely disperse on its own without becoming a destructive mob. The problem is that they lack the staying power of the religious fervor Authoritarian mindset of the 'Right' (speaking with sociological terms, not government/political ideologies (see Dr. Robert Altemeyer's "The Authoritarians" for the definition of "Authoritarian" used here)), and that is what is desperately needed here.

Ilithi Dragon said...

(continued... damn character limits...)

So far, as far as I can tell, Obama has been playing the adult. He's been working hard to mobilize his own populist base that surged him into the White House, and to present the truth of the situation, supporting his and his administration's and party's positions with facts and figures, while debunking GOP claims and arguments with the same. In an ideal world, that would be enough, but this is hardly that. In this world, that is largely defensive action: Building up forces, fortifying positions, and harassing the enemy with small skirmishes. The problem is that the GOP line remains very strong. If the Dems want to have any real success this election, that line must be broken up. Unfortunately, in today's political climate, that's not going to happen with the defensive actions of playing the adult. That is the strategy that is needed over the long haul, but in the immediate fight, an offensive push to break the GOP line, to break their momentum and increasing solidarity, is what is desperately needed. In today's political environment, that is going to mean hardball politics. Something is needed to turn the fire on the GOP, send a media feeding frenzy their way, and break up the solidarity of their line. I'm not sure that Obama will take that kind of action, though, because it is out of character for him. Unless some perfect ideal scandal falls in the Dems' laps, I don't see Obama getting down and fighting dirty. Barring that ideal scandal, what is needed is something vicious. It would be a brutal bash to the face with the sword pommel. A horde of war pigs sent against their war elephants. Casks of oil coated in flaming tar hurled by catapults and trebuchets into their advancing line of infantry.

Without something to break up the GOP line, I don't think the Dems are going to win this one. I find that scary because the Dems are the only ones who have been seriously floating viable economic policies to solve this mess and keep it from happening again (or for a couple generations, at least). Also because, unlike the Dems, once the people prone to join the Angry Tea Party crowd get built up to a rage/mob, they don't disperse as easily. I'm afraid what will happen with a GOP victory that also produces an angry mob (a Dem victory with an angry GOP mob, while also scary, is much less so and will only hurt the GOP position, and give more credence to Dem claims that the goppers only like democracy when it works for them). I'm also afraid of a GOP victory that propels Beck and the new increasingly-religious platform he's pushing into higher prominence and influence.

David Brin said...

Francois, I would be happy to discuss attending a literary festival -- or events about the technological future. After I've finished this $%#$#! novel!

Jacob said...

Hey Ilithi Dragon,

I empathize with your position and have strongly agreed with it in the past. However, I worry about the conflict you want to champion. I think we need to make sure that the tools with which we arm the "war pigs" are not weapons of rhetoric and leftish goals. We need to use understanding and empathy to figure out what motivates a conservative voter. Once you figure that out you can use practical ideas on how to accomplish what they want.

The single biggest unused weapon that the left has is that only they will enact laws that accomplish the goals of the Right. Note that between 2001-2006 Republicans actively controlled all three branches of Government. By conservative standards all should have been right in the world during this time. The Government small, the Debt low, Abortion Abolished, Mexico closed, etc.

If they care about government spending, we should help them interactive web programs that will let them see which areas of the government they would like to spend less on. (Believe it or not this will screw up most small government types as they have a hard time saying I hate that.) If they care about the debt, show them that how the Republican party does not take it seriously. If they care about Abortion, tell them that Science is the only true solution to the problem; it will allow for transference and other alternatives to the death of the child. And so on.

David Brin often talks about the ongoing Civil War caused by the actions of the Right. If we aren't careful we further that cause by creating conflict rather than dispelling illusions. David Brin is very right to tell us to talk to ostrich conservatives. The goal is to work together to accomplish what everyone wants. Society working together is the essence of government.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin,

I've been wondering how that has been coming along... Should we go back to kicking shins?

Ilithi Dragon said...


I definitely agree with you, especially as a long-term approach, and I definitely think that Obama's adult approach is the right one in the long term.

The problem is that these approaches are long-term approaches, they do not yield very many short-term results, and they can be overwhelmed by a highly-coordinated, well-regimented force focusing purely on short-term assault. The up-coming election is not a long-term battle, it is very short-term, and the results could greatly effect the ability for the President and the saner moderates in Congress to continue pushing that tactic.

Over the long haul, those tactics will win, but only over the long-haul. Even if the Dems lose in a complete route, eventually sticking with those tactics will bring them back into power. The problem is the hell this country would go through in the meantime. I would rather stave off slipping into another depression of insanity that would combine the worst of the Great Depression with the Bush Administration if at all possible, and I am willing to resort to a brutal/vicious attack to break up the GOP line, throw off their momentum, to achieve that.

I don't advocate the use of such tactics as standard/any-weather tactics (part of the GOP's problem, a feedback symptom of their slip into insanity, is that they have shifted focus to short-term political victories almost to the exclusion of all else (kind of like Corporate focus on quarterly profit margins almost to the exclusion of all else)). But to win a critical battle, they become a viable weapon (provided they do not cross the line into the realm of political war crimes).

In an ideal world, and hopefully in a future world, dirty political tactics will be completely unnecessary, and even harmful to the user, but that is not yet the world we live in.

Jacob said...

But wouldn't it be better if we used our energy to organize? I would put everything towards GOTV for this election while laying the groundwork for the next. This is a non-Presidential election which means that Democrats are always going to under preform. If every Democrat voted, they would win all elections. They don't need to turn the other party. That is a long term goal as you say.

Suppose the Democrats spent half their money on ensuring that there are lots and lots of Early voting locations. Then they hire people who are out of work to knock and doors to tell them that they can vote right now to get it out of the way. They don't even need to push any agenda at all. Rs are motivated and will vote so there is no harm in knocking on their doors or having them vote early.

David Brin said...

Guys... l am guilty as heck, but let's not turn this into a democratic party strategy corner. I do have fans of other persuasions, so let';s keep it a place they find welcoming...

...if sometimes a bit hot!

David Brin said...

nd now, having said that, I suddenly recall.

My cousin who works in the WhiteHouse is interested in short-sharp-effective polemical zingers to use this fall. Anybody got any one or two sentience zaps that BHO should use? Feel free to write to me separately.

rewinn said...

GOTV, organizing and one-sentence zaps would be a lot easier if the Democrats would use their current control of the legislative agenda to force the GOP to vote against the majority of Americans 24/7.

The Dems should stop trying to put forward only bills that can get 60 votes in the Senate. Instead put forth valuable bills that the GOP will feel compelled to block, and let the GOP roll up the numbers against themselves.

How about bills that
* Fund war orphans by increasing the taxes on war contractors?
* Legalizes the re-import of legal pharmaceuticals?
* Let federal agencies that are currently barred from negotiating prices for drugs - to negotiate on price?
* Mandate a licensing fee on every American flag produced --- waived on items Made In USA?
* Disallow tax credit for any wages paid to illegal aliens (that is, you can't subtract such wages from revenue in calculating taxable profit)
* Disallow tax refunds in excess of $10million per annum (if you're going to use tax strategies to zero out your taxes, you'll have to stretch out your refunds over a span of years)
* Levy a "War Tax" on industries extracting resources that are protected by combat forces
* Tax payments by elected government officials to prostitutes at maybe 50%

You can make up your own list. The point is that the Democrats force votes on LOTS of things that voters WANT; the GOP has been using this tactics in the form of offering amendments (e.g. disallowing 911 first-responder benefits to illegal aliens) so why is the Dem leadership in the Senate so stupid?

rewinn said...

And ... to atone for my blatantly pro-Democratic Party post just now ... let me urge my Libertarian friends to make a list of ten legislative proposals that most Americans should find acceptable, and offer to support any candidate of any party that signs on.

Call it a "Contract With Americanism".

I should not pretend to be a Libertarian but I can imagine sometime like:

* Legalizing free trade in legal pharmaceuticals
* An end to warrantless government spying
* uh .... there must be eight more. Some help from an actual Libertarian? Things that are consistent with Libertarian ideology and would probably appeal to 51% of Americans ?

Jacob said...

At the email account?

Tacitus2 said...

This is a non politcal thread per the heading, so I will stick to Sci (Fi).

From the New York Times, word of the closest to earth sized extrasolar planet.


Overall it does not sound like a promising resort community, but I still wish Zephram Cochrane would hurry up and get born!


Acacia H. said...

I must admit I suspect we're going to see a Neocon tsunami come the midterm elections and then Obama eliminated for 2012. Whether he's voted out of office or assassinated by an overzealous Tea Party fanatic I'm not sure.

We will then see significant legislation enacted to destroy any and everything the Democrats attempted. The Dems won't dare filibuster because they lack balls to do anything offensive. And within four years we will see the biggest Recession since the Great Depression. In fact we may very well see a Depression form.

The Republicans will struggle to remain in power and will manage to do so through 2014, maybe even 2016. The economy will tank, the world will bypass us, and the Republican party will finally self-destruct. And the Democrats and Moderates will be left to pick up the pieces.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

I dunno.

From this side of the lake it seems to me that a lot of the GOP and Tea Party hype comes from party nominations.

Mind you, I have our local mess to figure out. It seems like 'interesting' times may be here.